Individuals, families and services will be placed under an impossible strain

On 10 July the Government published its new Care and Support White Paper, outlining the reforms it plans to make to social care provision in England.

Why is this important? Simply, the future costs of social care are set to rise significantly. This is primarily because of an increasingly ageing population, many of whom will experience poor physical and mental health, including dementia. The number of people with dementia is expected to double over the next 30 years and costs are expected to treble. Without new arrangements for paying for care, individuals, families and services will be placed under an impossible strain.

We welcome many of the key proposals in the report, including:

  • the strong emphasis on prevention and increased low level support for those with care needs, reducing the risk of people reaching crisis point
  • the strengthening of the legal rights of carers
  • the introduction of a national minimum eligibility threshold for access to care and support, and the ‘portability of entitlement’ between local authorities This means people can move around the country taking their care entitlement with them, ending the current ‘postcode lottery’.
  • We also welcome the continued drive towards personalised services and the commitment towards extending personal budgets in social care - although more needs to be done as a matter of urgency to address the current low level of uptake of personal budgets among people with mental health problems, including dementia, and people with learning disabilities.

    Notably missing from the paper, however, is a clear decision on the future funding of social care. In 2010 the government asked the economist Andrew Dilnot to review the funding system for care and support in England, and last summer the Dilnot Commission’s report recommended that:

  • The lifetime costs faced by an individual for their care should be capped at £35,000
  • The threshold for receiving state care should be extended to people with assets of less than £100,000 (currently the threshold stands at £23,250).
  • Whilst the Government has now stated that it is committed in principle to Dilnot’s proposals, it seems that it will not be making a decision on funding reform until the next spending review, which could take place as late as 2014. So despite widespread calls for the rapid introduction of clear new rules, not least because current local authority spending cuts mean that fewer and fewer people are qualifying for social care support, it looks like we are faced with a long drawn-out process with no guarantee of a positive outcome.

    We think it right that social care costs should be covered partly by the Government, and partly by the individual, where he or she can afford it. The key issues for Government are therefore to make a firm commitment to pay any additional costs of a new system; to clarify the cap on how much an individual has to pay; and to publish a roadmap to achieve a national system by 2015.

    If you want to find out more, read the Care and Support White Paper (Caring for our future:reforming care and support)